Emergency notification: lessons learned

Recently a student at University of Central Florida, armed with a cache of weapons, committed suicide in a dorm. As the situation unfolded, police and administrators sounded the alarm via the automated alerting system at the school. After the event many UCF students voiced unhappiness with the delivery of information. Some students said there was too little information and that it arrived too late. Some mentioned that they got more scoop from social media than from the authorities involved in the case, while others felt the pacing and amount of information was satisfactory.

The reality is that it’s hard to craft a good message when all the facts aren’t in and the pressure is on. Fortunately, there are many incidents like the one at UCF that we can deconstruct and learn lessons from in order to improve processes in the future. With that in mind, we’ve created a new tip sheet: How to Communicate Under Threat. Here are some tips:

  • Timing is important, so take care to consider when to sound the alarm. If you send an alert too early it can encourage people to speculate; too late, and you lose credibility and trust.
  • Another common mistake is sending the wrong message to the wrong people, or sending the wrong message to the right people. This has shown to create confusion and even drive recipients to react in the wrong way. The same thing can happen when you send one message to everyone without considering levels and responsibilities. Plan now, and consider a variety of scenarios, so you can know ahead of time which groups need to know what information.
  • Once you have your message and audience sorted out, deliver your message by every means you can think of. Consider employees that are working remotely, traveling, sick at home or simply away from their desks. If you send an alert just to office phones, you’re bound to miss someone either because they are not near the phone, or phone lines may be down during a disaster. Deliver messages by phone, email, text and any other way that is likely to reach your people. And be sure to give recipients a way to respond, as they can often contribute important information to help manage an event.
  • And finally, prepare ahead so your news won’t run away from you. Many executive teams have been caught off guard by ignoring social media, only to find out that employees have already started chatting online, and not always correctly, while an event is taking place.

Want to learn more? Download How to Communicate Under Threat today and be prepared to communicate when your business or school is threatened. Find out more about MIR3 with this recent story from the San Diego Business Journal.